I have the worst firecracker hangover headache today. After six nights of interrupted sleep, I can tell you that my Chinese neighbours' favourite times to let off fireworks are -
1. Ten minutes after I fall asleep
2. Half an hour before I usually wake up
3. Between 1am and 2am
I can't fool them by going to bed later and getting up earlier, or by turning out all the lights and pretending I'm not home. What I really need, other than coffee and aspirin and about 10 hours more sleep, is a double-glazed apartment 50 floors above the ground, where the muted sound of firecrackers fifty floors below will be no louder than the coffee machine starting up.
Also, I wish that the f***er whose car alarm goes off beneath my bedroom window EVERY SINGLE TIME a cracker goes off, will come home to find the battery dead (oh! I wish!!) and all his pot plants dead, and the paint on his car pockmarked by falling debris.
Enough ranting. On to food. At least Chinese New Year comes with some fantastic street snacks that make up for all the sleep deprivation. After years of shift work I can tell you that it's not coffee that wakes up your brain, but SUGAR. These sugary little beauties are called Crystal Sugar Hawthorns (bīng táng shān zhā 冰糖山楂) and I wish they were available all year round, but that's what makes them so special.
Hawthorns are a member of the rose family and the red berries are the size of a large, round, rosehip. Eaten raw they are incredibly sour and quite astringent, but rolled in oil then confectioner's sugar and left to dry gives the crunchy, sour hawthorns a crisp sweet white crust. Like a miniature sugared toffee apple.
They're quite hard to find, I bought mine from a tiny stall at the Yu Gardens. 5 yuan/bag.
The Shanghai Street Food Series
Number 3 Liangpi - a spicy cold noodle dish
Number 4 Langzhou Lamian - hand-pulled noodles
Number 5 Cong You Bing - fried shallot pancakes
Number 6 Baozi - steamed buns, Shanghai style
Number 7 Jian Bing - the famous egg pancake
Number 14 Bao Mi Hua - exploding rice flowers
Number 16 Bing Tang Shan Zha - crystal sugar hawthorns
Number 21 Suzhou Shi Yue Bing - homestyle mooncakes
Number 22 Gui Hua Lian'ou - honeyed lotus root stuffed with sticky rice
Number 23 Cong You Ban Mian - scallion oil noodles
Number 25 Nuomi Cai Tou - fried clover pancakes
Number 26 Da Bing, Shao Bing - sesame breakfast pastries
Number 27 Ci Fan - sticky rice breakfast balls
Number 28 Gui Hua Gao - steamed osmanthus cake
Number 29 Zongzi - bamboo leaf wrapped sticky rice
Labels: Chinese New Year, food, Shanghai, street food